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Parliamentary and Political Monitoring Report w/c 19 August

By DPF Admin26th August 2013Latest News

The House of Lords remains on recess this week and will not return until 8th October, while the House of Commons also remains on recess and will not return until 2nd September.

City AM reports that a former KPMG partner, that had been picked to head the Government’s new financial crime-fighting unit, has unexpectedly stepped down, just months after his position was announced. Jeremy Outen was appointed in April as director designate of the Economic Crime Command at the National Crime Agency, due to launch in October. However, Outen resigned his post last month for “personal reasons”, and City AM says the news will come as an embarrassment to the Home Secretary Theresa May MP, who only has until October to find a replacement.

Minister makes assurances over GOCO plan

According to Bloomberg, Defence Procurement Minister Philip Dunne MP has dismissed concerns that conflicts of interest may derail the part-privatisation of the Defence Equipment and Support body of the MOD. Mr Dunne said that, philosophically, outsourcing activity was no more difficult than other kinds of activity and said that bidding entities have to pass an initial conflict test. 

Two groups are in the running for the contract, one comprising of three corporations including Serco Group PLC. When asked if it was right for companies such as Serco, which holds contracts for the running prisons and the electronic tagging of prisoners, to control the way large sums of taxpayers money are spent, Mr Dunne said the company wouldn’t have “direct influence” because it was only a minority partner in the bidding group. Mr Dunne added that the MOD was laying down the requirements and getting the contractors to negotiate the best deal.

The Government-Owned Contractor-Operated model (GOCO) was criticised by the Royal United Services Institute in July 2012 in a report in which RUSI said it could not envisage how a GOCO model would work in practice or be less expensive.

Mr Dunne said that the Government has been taking advice on its GOCO plan from five private-sector advisers, including lawyers and accountants at the cost of £30 million pounds. The UK is also holding discussions with the US about the proposal every two weeks, after its Department of Defence expressed concerns about the project in April. Mr Dunne said the US was “extremely interested” but made assurances that none of the issues raised were of a “red-flag” kind. Other allies of the UK, including Germany, Italy, Spain and Japan have also expressed interest in whether the UK can make procurement more efficient.

The MOD intends to phase in operations by the GOCO model by January 2015, focusing initially on maritime contracts, with successful bidders receiving a management fee for the work. Maritime contracts will account for 45% of DE&S spending over the next decade, and only after an assessment by ministers in 2017 would the government set out permanent financial incentives for the new operators of the agency.

Chief of Defence Staff says UK must lower its expectation of military power

The Daily Telegraph reports that new Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir Nick Houghton has said that Government plans to shrink and transform the Armed Forces have left some military personnel feeling unhappy and alienated. General Houghton also warned that defence cuts will mean that Britain must lower the “expectation” of the military power the Armed Forces will be able to deploy in the future conflicts.

Speaking to Defence Focus Magazine, General Sir Nick Houghton said that one of his main concerns is that the transformation of the Armed Forces had been poorly communicated to service personnel and warned that senior chiefs had not taken enough time communicating internally. General Houghton said it was important that the forces community “understand the context and relevance of what they’re doing” in the context of job cuts and restructuring. He added that the UK has risked people “becoming cynical and detached” from the focus of defence and said one of his priorities would be to listen to the concerns of personnel to make “everyone feel on side with what is going on”.

A recent survey of MOD personnel has shown a sharp fall in Armed Forces morale in three years since cuts were announced following the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review. Included in the figures was the proportion of personnel rating overall morale ‘low’ more than doubling from 24% in 2010 to 55% in 2013. The Daily Telegraph says that “some observers” questioned whether better communication would influence military morale. The newspaper says that Colonel Richard Kemp states that the problem is not so much related to a lack of communication but the direness of the situation; “People have seen their jobs go and seen their friends slung out on their ear”.

Britain’s combat mission in Afghanistan is due to end next December, and the Chief of Defence Staff signalled that once the operation is over Britain will have to alter its mind-set for future military operations. General Sir Nick Houghton said that smaller armed forces will be able to project less power than the British military had at the peak of the Afghan mission, suggesting that future operations will be on a smaller scale. He added that the British military will have to “recalibrate” its expectation of the level of capabilities that can be fielded on new operations and get back into an “expeditionary mind-set”.

General Houghton’s words about future military capability follow a warning by General Sir Peter Wall, head of the Army, that further cuts would be “dangerous”. The MOD has said that it was working to mitigate the impact of cuts on morale and said that during a period of change there is bound to be “uncertainty”. The MOD said the New Employment Model would address areas of discontent, including pension benefits, morale and integration with reserves and welfare support.

Army infantry units to become smaller

The Daily Telegraph reports that key infantry units are to be reduced to their smallest size in more than 100 years. The newspaper says that each of the Army’s infantry battalions will lose up to 70 soldiers, in an effort to create equally sized units of 520 service personnel. The move is part of the restructuring process which is aiming to reduce the Army’s current strength of 102,000 to 82,000 soldiers by 2020 and is expected to be completed by October. It also follows a pledge made by the Prime Minister not to abolish any further “cap badges”.

The Telegraph says there are concerns amongst senior Army personnel that this move will leave some units with an effective fighting force of only 200 personnel. Colonel Richard Kemp, ex-commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, warned that small infantry battalions put at risk the Army’s ability to deploy and said the role of the infantry was decisive on operations. An Army spokesman said that the changes were “led by the Army” who made an assessment of the number of criteria and looked to ensure the Army was “more adaptable to future challenges”.

Trident could stay in Scotland in the medium term without infringing on independence

The Times (£) reports that Trident submarines could stay on for ten years if Scotland left the UK without infringing Scottish independence. The Institute of International and European Affairs, said that a “foreign military base” remaining in Scotland in the medium term would not be incompatible with Scottish independence.

First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond MSP wants the UK nuclear deterrent to leave its base on the Clyde as soon as possible if Scotland becomes independent and the Scottish National Party is staunchly opposed to nuclear weapons. However, retaining the Trident base at Faslane for a decade or more could be part of a defence agreement with remaining parts of the UK, in a move that would benefit both sides. Earlier this month, Scottish and NATO officials held talks on the possibility of an independent Scotland joining NATO. Both sides know that the SNP’s insistence on the early removal of Trident from Scottish waters remains a problem for Scottish membership

The foreign affairs think tank report was authored by a retired colonel in the Irish army and draws on the Republic’s military experience since it left the UK. Colonel Dorcha Lee says that an independent Scotland should not base its Defence Forces on existing Scottish units in the British Forces, but must decide what its military has to do, and then create the right structures to fit that role. Colonel Lee also argues that Scotland could spend much less on defence as an independent country than it does as part of the UK, and possibly half the £3.3 billion it contributes annually.

However, Colonel Lee warned that the SNP policy of immediate withdrawal might not be in the best interests of Scotland in trying to negotiate the best deal with the rest of the UK. Colonel Lee said that the timeframe for withdrawal has to take into account the “UK’s strategic interests”. Scottish Defence expert Lieutenant-Colonel Stuart Crawford agrees with Colonel Lee that Faslane would have to remain the base for Trident nuclear submarines for some considerable time. Lieutenant-Colonel Crawford warned that removing trident amounted to the UK’s unilateral disarmament, “something the USA will not allow to happen” and said the most practical option would be to allow Trident to remain until it becomes obsolete in 2030.

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Nimrod dismantlement and scrapping cost MOD £3.75 billion

The Daily Express reports that figures in the MOD’s annual report and accounts for 2012/13 show £4.06 billion in confirmed losses for 2012, as well as a further £4.4 billion earmarked as “advanced notification” estimates. The newspaper says that most of the cost derives from cancellation of high-value asset acquisition, which includes a £3.75 billion for the cancellation of ‘spy-in-the-sky’ Nimrod MRA4 aircraft and £39 million to buy out a “commercially sensitive” lease arrangement.

The Daily Express says that the new fleet of Nimrods, due for delivery last year, would have offered Britain the world’s most advanced submarine hunter while doubling as a search-and-rescue aircraft. However, the nine aircraft were dismantled and scrapped in 2011, after a decision to sacrifice them as part of cost-cutting measures contained in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review.

Other forecast losses include £1.5 billion for withdrawal of infantry from Germany, £1.29 billion for the early withdrawal of the Harrier Fleet and £250 million for slashing the number of Challenge 2 tanks. Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British troops in Afghanistan said it was “deeply shocking” that taxpayers money should be written off like that. Colonel Kemp criticised the MOD’s decision to scrap the equipment instead of mothballing it, saying it leaves the country “vulnerable”. Andy Smith of the UK National Defence Association described the revelation “an appalling waste”.

MOD publishes New Employment Model

This week the MOD published the programme for the New Employment Model (NEM), which it says is the most thorough review of service personnel terms and conditions of service in a generation. Included in the programme is a commitment to ensure that the NEM pay model is recruitment and retention positive, a commitment to simplify the allowance system and a commitment to improve the standard of Service Families Accommodation and Single Living Accommodation. The programme also details how the MOD is considering new structures of working, including a consideration of ways in which Regular personnel may be able to work part-time for a limited period.


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